Diamond in the Rough: Justin Coleman

Diamond in the Rough: Justin Coleman, CB, Tennessee
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Every year in the NFL Draft, there are talented players who slip through the cracks. Players go undrafted for a variety of reasons like being too undersized, a lack of speed, injuries, a lack of production in college or having played at lower level of competition. Some prospects end up not getting invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and end up falling to the late rounds or going undrafted all together.

The history of the NFL features some great players who went undrafted, including Hall of Famers like quarterback Warren Moon. In recent years, there have been other superstars who were undrafted free agents, including Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, London Fletcher, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Brian Waters and Priest Holmes. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith became the Super Bowl MVP after not getting invited to the Combine and being a seventh�round pick.

With so much talent falling through the cracks, WalterFootball.com decided to continue its series to showcase some of the under�the�radar talents in the 2015 NFL Draft class. These players could be late�round picks or undrafted free agents who end up becoming steals for their NFL teams.

This edition features Tennessee cornerback Justin Coleman. Coleman (5�10, 188) was a 4-year contributor for the Volunteers who broke into the starting lineup as a freshman. He locked down a starting job in 2013 and recorded 59 tackles with three passes broken up. Coleman had 46 tackles, seven breakups, and an interception as a junior. In his senior campaign, he totaled 42 stops with five passes broken up and four interceptions. Coleman went on to have a solid week at the East�West Shrine to earn some consideration as a late�rounder.

It looked to me like you had a good week of practice in St. Petersburg. How would you assess your performance at the East�West?

“I felt I had a good week of practice and played pretty good in the game. My mindset was to not just do good, but to do great. I wanted to do the best I could and help make a name for myself with the scouts.”

After playing four years, you are very experienced against top competition that looked like a real asset for you at the East�West Shrine.

“I felt it played a huge role. Everything in the competition on the field was expected. I knew what to expect and understood everything that was coming towards you [sic]. In the East�West Shrine, I felt I had more experience for that in terms of receivers running routes, ball skills and attacking the football.”

Entering the Combine, how do you feel about your readiness to stand out like you did at the East�West Shrine?

“I’ve been down here in Fort Lauderdale training six days a week. Mostly, I’ve been focused on my legs because there have been questions about my speed. My goal is to do the best I can in every drill and in everything I do. I’ve been training to the best of my ability.”

Who were some of the teams that you met with?

“Off the top of my mind, I spoke with the Falcons, Panthers, the Green Bay Packers, the Jaguars, the Giants, the Browns, the Colts, and Dallas. Those were just some of them.”

Among those do any teams stand out as showing more interest?

“I wouldn’t say showing more interest, but I some teams were more interested about reaching out for my cell phone to stay in touch. The Falcons and Panthers were two of those.”

Looking back at your collegiate career, it looked like things clicked for you as a senior, when you produced more. Where there any coaching points or techniques that led to you finishing your years there playing your best football?

“Experience plays a huge role, and I felt like this was the time to make a legacy at Tennessee. Making plays led to more success for me and the team rather than just being a guy on the field. I felt like I made more plays, and that helped the team win some more games.”

It must have been gratifying to you not only end your career playing your best but also helping to lead the program back to bowl games.

“It was an honor playing with the guys I played with and us coming together after a lot of adversity. We were happy to end it with a bowl win, and it was one of the best feelings from playing college football.”

Who are some of your teammates at Tennessee that will be going through this draft process in the next year or two?

“There are a lot, but one especially that comes to mind is Cam Sutton. He’s been balling since he was a freshman and making a lot of plays for the team. He’s a very dedicated guy and a guy you can count on.”

Who would you say are the best of the best that you went against in the SEC?

“I would say both Coopers, Amari Cooper and Pharaoh Cooper. They were two of the best guys. Very dynamic.”

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